What is The Audible?
As history plays out, there are pivotal moments, decisions, and events that impacted the course of time. For the NFL, there are moments that do the same which, if changed, may alter the history of the league. If the Immaculate Reception doesn’t happen, does Miami’s perfect season remain and do the Steelers start their dynasty in the 70s? If Bledsoe never gets hurt, does Brady find success in the NFL? What if Elway had decided to play for the Colts? Let’s put it this way: In the game of football, if there needs to be a change to the play, a team goes to the playbook and calls an audible. However, what if we call an audible on history? We change just one moment and see the ripple effect and all that entails. In this edition of The Audible, what if Minnesota won Super Bowl LII? How does the league change and evolve with the switch of that moment?
To set the stage, Minnesota infamously lost the NFC Championship game against the Nick Foles led Eagles, being dominated 38-7 before the Eagles ultimately claimed a win over the New England Patriots to hoist their first Lombardi Trophy. With Minnesota’s loss, the Vikings proceeded to go into the off-season determined to upgrade the quarterback position, ultimately landing Kirk Cousins, and the Eagles went on to keep both Wentz and Foles, with both being crucial in their 2018 campaign, and thus, the quarterback dominoes of the 2018 off-season ensued.
The Change – What if the Vikings Won Super Bowl LII?
However, in this new course of history, The Audible sees Minnesota come out on top of Philadelphia, on their way to their first Super Bowl win ever, which would be over the New England Patriots. With the team’s first Lombardi in hand, Minnesota re-signs Super Bowl MVP QB Case Keenum to bring stability to their QB room and now set at QB, the New York Jets are able to land the free agent bell-of-the-ball Kirk Cousins from Washington with little competition. But what other dominoes fall? Denver, now no longer having Keenum as an option, turns to the draft and is able to secure Sam Darnold at pick #5. Who goes at #3? Well Indianapolis publicly wanted to trade down and originally did so with the New York Jets, but with Kirk Cousins in Gotham Green, Arizona is able to trade up with Indy to secure a franchise quarterback and the services of the strong-armed Wyoming QB Josh Allen, who was rumored to be high on the team’s board. Buffalo, now without their top options, instead trades for Philadelphia backup Nick Foles, who the Eagles no longer have emotional ties to after their NFC Championship loss, thus propelling Rosen down the draft board to pick #17, keeping him in hometown Los Angeles with the Chargers. So Keenum stays a Viking, Kirk becomes a Jet, Foles lands with the Bills, and the NFL Draft sees Allen, Darnold, and Rosen headed to Arizona, Denver, and LA respectively.
Looking forward to the new 2018 NFL season, Keenum and the Vikings find continued success after Shurmur’s departure to Big Blue with the internal promotion of Kevin Stefanski (no need to get DeFilippo now that the Eagles lost in the playoffs) and Minnesota handily secure the last wildcard berth. Buffalo also steps up behind the leadership of Foles and goes 10-6, winning the final wildcard spot over Houston (Indy wins the division now with Houston finishing 9-7 with a new loss to the Foles led Bills). The Broncos and the Jets are roughly the same (New York having marginally more success with Kirk under center), but Arizona doubles their win total, giving Steve Wilkes another year of security in the desert instead of being one-and-done. Thus, the former Cardinal Josh Rosen is now able to sit behind Phillip Rivers and learn, which provides a better path to success come 2019, but Oakland and Philadelphia take steps back where the Raiders lose a key game against the Bills to go 3-13 and secure the #1 overall pick and Philadelphia loses the final three games of the season as Nate Sudfeld is called upon in the wake of Wentz injury causing them to go 6-10. The Rams proceed to top the Vikings in the NFC Championship game and Kansas City takes down Baltimore in the AFC to create a Rams v Chiefs Super Bowl, where ultimately McVay and his air-raid offense get the job done this time around to top Mahomes and company.
With a new off-season approaching, the QB dominoes continue to fall in The Audible timeline, with Kyler now projected to go to Gruden’s Raiders. Where does Carr land then? Washington, where the other Gruden hopes to find a solution to his QB woes in a last-ditch effort to save his job. Jacksonville also follows suit and acquires Los Angeles veteran Phillip Rivers, who’s time in the AFC West comes to an end as the young buck, Josh Rosen, is given the reins. With Washington no longer needing a quarterback, the former Buckeye Dwayne Haskins no longer heads to the nation’s capital but instead, heads to Philly who desperately need a quarterback with Wentz having two season-ending injuries in back-to-back years. Now, Minnesota, in prime position to draft for luxury, takes the Mizzou Tiger Drew Lock at the back of the first round to sit and develop behind the 31-year-old Case Keenum.
That all said, what about Kliff Kingsbury? With the Arizona job no longer coming open in 2019, Kingsbury stays at USC in his new offensive coordinator role and helps propel Kedon Slovis into stardom with his QB guru mojo, convincing then head coach Clay Helton to roll with the dual-threat freshman from day one. Helton proceeds to leave for the Florida State job after the 2019 season (sorry Mike Norvell) and Kingsbury is promoted to head coach. He then, in just six games as a head coach, implements his high-powered offense and has Slovis leading all statistical quarterback numbers (by a wide margin) and provides USC with a perfect 6-0 record. Having reinvented his image, Kingsbury re-emerges in the NFL for the 2021 season. Following the departure of Dan Quinn, the Falcons look for a young, innovative offensive mind; enter Kliff and his new starting QB Kedon Slovis, who they take in the 2021 NFL Draft.
The Reality – A New QB Landscape in the NFL
So to recap, Case Keenum and Drew Lock are Vikings, Foles becomes a Bill, Denver lands Sam Darnold, Josh Allen goes to Arizona, Kirk is a Jet, Rosen stays in Los Angeles, Eagles draft Dwayne Haskins, Kyler ends up with the Raiders, Rivers is shipped to Jacksonville, Carr is traded to Washington, and Kedon Slovis becomes an NFL QB for the Falcons. Truly, the 2017 NFC Championship game caused a massive domino effect at the QB position and the NFL gunslinger landscape would be forever changed with a Minnesota victory in Super Bowl LII. One singular game, but a ripple effect so alternate it’s hard to believe. However, it’s all for not as the play was never changed and this timeline forever remains part of The Audible playbook.